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A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

Rating- 9/10

When I saw this book cover and title, I knew I had to read this book! It gives off a soulful and rich vibe that I was totally digging. I love all the bold prints on the book cover and the color scheme too. Also, it’s based in Africa, and it’s been a hot minute since I read a book from the motherland y’all. This is one of 2020’s fall most anticipated reads according to a good few must read book lists! I would love to say a huge thanks to Tin House Books for sending me an advance review copy of this beautiful book. A Girl is a Body of Water is out now! Let’s check out the synopsis and my review for this gorgeous read.


The setting is Uganda, Africa.

We follow a young girl named Kirabo as she comes of age in 1970s Uganda as her country is transformed by the bloody dictatorship of Idi Amin. Kirabo is been raised and surrounded by strong women in the small village of Natetta. She's brought up by her grandmother Alikisa, her many aunts and her best friend. But all the while, the absence of her mother follows her around like a shadow. No one in her family is willing to tell her anything about her mother or if she’s even alive or dead.

Kirabo begins to experience strange sensations of which her body feels as though it’s split in two. One part being headstrong, bold, and strong, and the other timid, sweet and obedient. Kirabo begins to visit the local witch named Nsuuta. They spend afternoons trading stories and Kirabo learns about this mysterious force inside of her. Nsuuta also tells her about the woman who brought her to life, and discovers that her mother is indeed alive. Nsuuta explains to Kirabo that she has streaks inside of her of the ‘first woman’ there ever was, an independent, strong state that has now been lost on all women.

As the years pass, Kirabo finds herself enrolled in an elite school and we follow her as she comes-of-age and learns more about herself, and grapples with her identity, her family origins and her family expectations, as well as trying to figure out what it means to be a modern girl in a world that seems determined to silence women.

This book deals with Kirabo’s desire to reconnect with her mother, and the modern notions of feminism against a backdrop of traditional Ugandan folklore.

My Review:

A Girl is a Body of Water is heaping with rich, traditional Ugandan culture. There is an entire village in this book you guys and I was here for it! This is one epic saga and I relished it all in one week.

Let's talk about what I loved about this book. Okay so this book was a total slow burner, in the sense that it takes its time to truly develop. Makumbi was in no rush and I was totally digging it. It felt like you were watching a soap opera or a saga in a way, but it was so nice to read, I loved it!

The characters in this book were all exquisitely unique and individually charming. I absolutely loved Kirabo. What a relatable and great character she was. You fully understand who she is seeing as we grow up right along with her. We follow her from a young age of about twelve years old, and spend quite a bit of time with her during her teenage years as well. I loved all of Kirabo’s family as well. Nsuuta, the local witch, was a gem of a character. She is surrounded by some powerhouse bold women, which is in fact very true to African culture. African women tend to be very strong, bossy and independent. I quite liked how Kirabo was a total tomboy compared to a lot of other girls in the village. Especially with the pressure she would get from her grandmother to be more feminine. This was an interesting aspect of the book, I liked the depth of which Makumbi had brought to life with the traditional African culture customs, and the clash of feminist uprising that we were getting from Kirabo’s character, and a lot of other characters in the book too.

This book was filled with layer upon layer of depth within the story. A lot goes in this book, a whole lot more than I was expecting. Especially given the small description of the book, you definitely got more than what you signed up for but in a really great way! I loved it! Makumbi covered a plethora of issues in this book, it was insane. A lot of these problems or ideals that she addresses are actually very relevant in all cultures, not just African traditional cultures. Makumbi brings up issues such as the gender roles, and high expectations that women place on each other, to be the rock of the family, to bear the children of the men with no questions asked, to be the homemaker while the men can go about their business at work, and can sleep with as many women as they’d like. Also, how female friendships can be completely torn apart because of boys. I mean, these are universal issues here, and I loved how relatable they all were.

I adored the feminist themes in this book immensely. There were a lot of strong and opinionated characters in this book! Just as there would be in any African, or non African family for that matter. This book definitely made me laugh a few times, it was completely endearing. There were a lot of themes being thrown around in this book such as Privilege, sexism, marriage, relationships, close community life, religion, politics, I mean I could go on you guys. This book had it all! You also learn quite a lot too! I sure did.

My only negative comment is that sometimes the book can tend to be a little slow, especially during Kirabo’s younger years, but as soon as she’s a teenager it just gets so juicy, and you were hooked right back in there. At times I felt upset by the crazy tradition of how powerful the men truly were in this book, but this is staying true to time period the book was set in and the culture too. Women really got the short end of the stick here, but that aside, this book is a celebration to women and the immense work they put in everything they do.

This was a really fascinating and engrossing book to read and I genuinely enjoyed it! It was jam packed with a lot of awesome characters, like a lot! It was really funny! Especially if you can relate to the African/family ties and mannerisms in this book. Makumbi captured East African women to a tee. It was brilliant! Highly recommend it.

Makumbi is a gifted storyteller. A Girl is a Body of Water is a feminist coming-of-age historical fiction read for all ages, races and faces. This book is full of rich Ugandan folklore, and universal themes that we can all relate to. I loved all of the characters, the sense of community as well as the powerful female roles that played an important part in this book. A truly rewarding and memorable read.

Song Pick:

I could not decide you guys!! So I picked two songs, haha totally breaking the rules here. Of course I had to pick female Ugandan artists due to the amazing women in this book! I have to expose you to some bangin' tunes right?

My 1st pick is a powerful song titled:

'Woman' by Juliana Kanyomozi. This song is bold, strong and depicts all of the women in this book!

I also wanted to pick a fun song that captures the young spirit of Kirabo and her lighter side. I wanted a fun tune to capture the essence of East African culture, so my 2nd pick is titled:

While you're here check out Eddy Kenzo, he's an awesome Ugandan artist - Click Here to check out his banger - 'Sitya Loss'.

Genre: Historical Fiction | Literary Fiction | Coming-of-Age

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Pages: 560 Pages



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